Poorly post war kids have their ‘health holiday’ stories told in new documentary

  • Manchester Metropolitan University has recorded the experiences of Manchester residents who were sent to Switzerland on 'health holidays' after the Second World War
  • Poorly children where taken away from their families in order to help them recover from respiritory diseases
  • They recall the confusion, trepidation and lonliness of the experience
  • They then recall the beauty of their surroundings, their kind caring hosts and the amazing improvements it had on their health


Returners’ Stories from jim dalziel on Vimeo.

A generation of post war Manchester children who were spirited away to Switzerland on “health holidays” have told their stories in a new documentary.

In 1948, following the second world war, groups of “delicate” children were sent away from their families in smoggy Salford and Manchester to the therapeutic fresh air of rural Switzerland as part of a humanitarian relief program run by the swiss red cross.

Manchester Metropolitan University has produced a new documentary cataloguing the experiences of these “returners.”

Most of these children were suffering from respiratory diseases caused by the poor living conditions in Manchester at the time. In the documentary, Richard Larkin recalls: “I was poorly for quite some time. I was very poorly. It was pneumonia and pleurisy and the priest came and, how can I say, he gave me the sacraments. I was that bad.”

Being sent off to a new unfamiliar land was a daunting prospect for some who remember the confusion and fear of leaving their families so young and in such a delicate state.

But many soon fell in love with the idyllic surroundings and rich home cooking. Maureen Hales said: “Seeing all the fields and the food being grown. And you see beautiful homes and chickens and cows, it was awe inspiring actually, the trip to Switzerland.”

Joe Littler with Margit from his Swiss foster family

But there were mixed emotions as the children returned to Manchester. With the sadness of leaving behind the beautiful green lands and loving hosts and the joy of reuniting to their families.

The “returners” noted striking improvements to their health and well being as it seemed taking in the pollution free air with the beautiful scenery and wholesome swiss cuisine had done just the trick. Some like Kenneth Kirkbride said, “it saved my life.”

Their return coincided with the birth of the NHS and the opening of their first hospital in Davyhulme giving hope to the next generation of Manchester children.